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How to Defend Against Cybercrime on Social Networks
Almost 10 percent of all internet time is accounted for by two-thirds of the world's internet population visiting social networking or blogging sites.While much social networking is about well-intentioned connecting, you need be aware, however, that cybercrime is on the increase,with cyber criminals seeking to trap the unsuspecting online social networker who hasn't taken proper precautions. You can protect yourself, but you need to know how. This article provides a number of ways to minimize the danger of participating in your favorite social networks.
Get to your favorite social media sites by typing in the exact address into your browser.Never go in through an email link or via another website to reach it because it could be a trap to get your account name and password.
When visiting a site, and logging in, look for the padlock icon.This is an indication that the site is authenticated and encrypted, protected by means of Transport Layer Security (TLS).
Remember these main things if you remember nothing else:
- Pick a good, strong password, always. Don't base passwords on personal information that can be easily accessed or guessed, don't use words that can be found in any dictionary of any language, develop a mnemonic for remembering complex passwords, use both lowercase and capital letters, use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, use pass phrases when you can, and use different passwords on different systems.
- Don't confuse being well-known online with being protected. If anything, the more you're known, the more you're exposed.
Don't mistake the user-friendliness of social networking sites for safety.This user-friendliness increases the ways that people can find out more about you and that is not always a good thing. Think before:
- Posting photos that identify you, your family members and where you live.
- Posting photos of the state of your desk. It could be that the bank account number you just keyed in is still obviously scrawled on a note pad square in the middle of the photo!
- Telling people what you're about to do if it involves leaving the house.
- Adding your child's name to any pictures.
Know how your chosen social media sites protect your privacy.Don't just assume that they will do it, but know that they will and how it is done. This means reading their terms and conditions and the "frequently asked questions". If you still don't know, send their help team a question, or leave your questions on the forums or other communication channels for general answers.
- Hide your personal information from others. Did you know that the things social networking sites ask for (age, date of birth, email address, phone number, mother's maiden name), are all that a hacker needs to impersonate you or to impersonate being someone that you know to get information from you?
- Don't ever give personal information to someone you've just met online. They could be up to no good and you have no way of knowing.
Don't accept just anyone as part of your friend's list.To do so opens you up to the possibility of an identity thief getting as much information about you as possible. Be discerning and do some background research first. If you do want to have a lot of friends (such as is commonplace on sites like Twitter and Facebook), be very careful if any of the ones who are not well known to you start asking lots of personal questions or even want to "meet you" for real. Trust your instincts.
Stay aware.It is good practice to be take care when using email information and links. Don't just follow any link sent to you by email, think first:
- Don't go to a site through your email–ever. Not even if it was solicited first. Just type the name of the site into your browser and open it that way.
- Avoid answering emails even in jest. While you may feel the temptation to respond with a funny reply, this can actually be harmful if it confirms your existence. At best, it will lead to more spam, at worst, it can lead to the cyber criminal learning more about you than they would had you not replied.
Be careful about opening attachments.The basic rule should be that you only open them if you have received them from people you really trust. Given the ease with which a cyber criminal can work out identities, it could be someone posing as a friend sending you information that contains malware:
- Consider the usual behavior of the sender. Do you know this person? Do you trust their own ability to judge whether or not information is trustworthy? Is it within character for this person to send you such a link, or is this out of the norm? Maybe they have gotten a virus through their messaging software and it's their computer sending it, not an actual person.
- Look for things that don't appear right. If you receive an invitation to visit a site, or to give information out from someone you know, consider whether or not this is an interest they'd really have. For example, if they ask you to visit a music site, ask yourself first if the sender is an actual fan of the musician whose site you've just been sent? If it rings false, proceed with great caution, and preferably contact the sender first.
Take the most care when using public computers.Take care that people can't see what you're surfing and if at all possible, avoid using passwords, especially ones that link to bank accounts and other important sites.
Report cyber crime and IP fraud.It is only by being vigilant that we can stay one step ahead of cyber criminals, and reporting their activities helps to form a bigger picture of what is happening, as well as potentially helping you.
Watch the news.Keep up to date with the news about online security happenings. Breaking news will appear on Twitter and Facebook within a short space of time, and anything like viruses going around will be mentioned on them, as well as in the news.
Subscribe to tech blogs that keep you updated on new security issues.Another way to stay informed is to use news feeds or to have alerts sent to you from search engines or particular sites that have an interest in watching for internet security issues, including consumer affairs sites.
Teach children to beware of online dangers.Find sites that will help you as a parent or guardian explain the issues concerning safety online. You don't need to figure out how to do this all alone - there are reputable, quality, independent sites that are assessing and monitoring online media challenges for children. Find such sites and look for materials and games for kids that can help kids to to learn about the issues with your help.
Teach kids responsible computer use.Take the time to explain:
- Cyber crime in simple words
- Ways to be responsible online
- The importance of privacy settings and how to use them
- Which age-appropriate sites you're happy for them to use - focus on what they can do, rather than what they can't
Keep computers where you can see them when kids are using them.And let children know that you're always available to help them if they feel worried or bothered by anything online - the most important lesson is the one about your own accessibility and willingness to step in and fix online problems with them. Be consistent - children respect the boundaries you set far better when you are consistent and when you practice what you preach.
- Keep current when it comes to knowing about viruses. Not only how to protect yourself against them, but their delivery system. As our technology gets better and better, so does 'theirs'.
Sources and Citations
- Symantec releases an annual where you can learn more about what's happening.
- You may use just one anti-virus, but there is nothing wrong with checking the information that about what each anti-virus program offers. Some of the major anti-virus sites that you will find:
- NielsenWire, , retrieved May 12, 2010.
- Scoop, , 20 April 2010, retrieved May 12, 2010.
- Stuff.co.nz, , retrieved May 12, 2010
- United States computer emergency readiness team, , retrieved May 12, 2010
- Manjari Juneja,Security in Social Networking, Express Computer, Apr 26, 2010, retrieved May 12, 2010
- Some good examples include Common Sense Media () and The Internet Keep Safe Coalition ().
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